Survey reveals worrying levels of abuse against doctors

More than a third of doctors have faced recent abuse from patients, or those close to them, according to a survey from the British Medical Association.

The survey of more than 2,400 doctors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland reveals a worrying level of abuse directed at doctors and their colleagues as they deal with the greatest health crisis in a generation. The BMA reports that as many as 37 per cent of respondents had experienced verbal abuse first-hand in the most recent month – including 51 per cent of GPs and 30 per cent of hospital doctors.

With one in five GPs reporting being threatened, the BMA also said that half of respondents (51 per cent) had witnessed violence or abuse against other staff, which rose to 67 per cent for doctors working in general practice.

Hospital doctors were most likely to report abuse of nurses (87 per cent) or other doctors (65 per cent), while in general practice, 96 per cent of those who had seen colleagues face abuse said this was directed at reception staff.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: “The last year-and-a-half has been an incredibly challenging time for both doctors and patients, and many doctors share the frustration of their patients around unfamiliar ways of working, or if waiting times are too long. However, abuse, violence and threats are absolutely unacceptable and should never be tolerated.

“GPs and their colleagues are doing their absolute best, day in, day out, to provide care to their local communities, and we know that the vast majority of our patients appreciate the hard work we are doing. However, these findings show an incredibly worrying trend, with GPs reporting rising levels of abuse against staff in general practice, who are already working under intense pressure.

“Facing such abuse leaves doctors fearing for the safety of themselves, their colleagues and their loved ones, which can have a profound effect on their wellbeing. It can leave even the most resilient GP feeling alienated and undervalued, leaving them questioning their career when the NHS can ill afford to lose any more staff in general practice. Meanwhile, being on the receiving end of rudeness can impact productivity and the quality of work, ultimately threatening patient care.

“There must be an honest public conversation, led by the government and NHS England, about the precarious state the NHS now finds itself in after 18 months of managing a pandemic, so that people have realistic expectations, and to prevent staff bearing the brunt of frustration and anger.

“Alongside the urgent need for support for general practice and the wider NHS from government so that we stand a chance of meeting the growing needs of our patients, we’d continue to remind the public to be kind and considerate when contacting their surgery – we are humans too, after all.”